Durham Performing Arts Center—In the terms of its breakout song, “Seasons of Love,” it will soon be 6,832,800 minutes since Rent opened Off-Broadway in 1996, en route to becoming the second-longest-running Broadway musical.
For original cast member Anthony Rapp, Rent has become a career within a career: He’s played filmmaker Mark Cohen in the Off-Broadway, Broadway and film versions, and authored a book, Without You, detailing his work with Rent author Jonathan Larson (who died just before the premiere). Along with original Broadway cast member Adam Pascal, Rapp reprises his role in the touring show that comes to the Durham Performing Arts Center this week.
Rapp has embraced his role as a spokesman. “I’ve been in the business since I was 9, so I really got a sense of how rare and powerful this experience is, and I pledged to myself to honor it,” Rapp says. He’s still finding new aspects to his role after all these years: “It’s like stepping into incredibly comfortable shoes. I’ll never grow tired of listening to the best Beatles songs, and I’ll never grow tired of singing Jonathan Larson songs.”
Does he see himself still playing Mark in 10 years? “No! By then I’ll be pushing 50, and that would be kind of crazy. I’ll probably be involved in some way, though—I directed a production in South Africa last year, and I hope to get the chance to do it again in the future.”
Rapp says he was “very tickled” by Neil Patrick Harris’ impersonation of his Rent character on the Jan. 10 episode of Saturday Night Live, but wonders if “anyone outside of the community of diehard fans of Rent would have any idea as to why his hands were so spastic.
“The funny footnote of all of it is that Neil played Mark in Rent in 1997, and did a damn good job of it, too,” Rapp says. “Although in his portrayal, his hands were certainly much less spastic than mine ever were.”
Rent kicks off the SunTrust Broadway Series at DPAC, and runs through Sunday, Jan. 25. Visit www.dpacnc.com for more information. —Zack Smith